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tv   1966 Fulbright Vietnam Hearings General James Gavin  CSPAN  February 20, 2016 8:38am-9:51am EST

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gavin prevents his views on the vietnam war to the senate foreign relations committee. his statement is followed by senators questions, including committee chairman fulbright. broadcast by cbs news on february 8, 1966. general gavin was a commander of the 82nd airborne during world war ii. it was the only general to parachute four times with this troops during combat, including jumps into sicily and normandy. he retired from the army in 1958 and was u.s. ambassador to france for the first two years of the kennedy administrator. this is the first 70 minutes of the hearing. debate overof the the war in indochina, he fared under general ridgeway than army chief of staff and assistant chief of staff for plans and operations. he is one of the leading military strategists in the
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postwar. although he is now in private industry, he has remade of thoughtful observer and commentator on military strategy in the nuclear age. gavin has served his country barrel well -- very well and has a right to enjoy his retirement. but we need his advice, for there are very few people in his experience. --elieve we are constructed confronted with momentous decisions in the near future, and i need not tell you general gavin, with the subject matter of these decisions involves very this committee is trying to explore certain aspects of our policies come upon which you can throw some light. so that the judgment of our people in this committee may be as wise as possible.
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not a novel or new approach, it is a traditional role which are systematized to the senate, and the senate is dedicated to this. to be reviewed by the senate as a whole and by the country. we have many precedents for this inquiry, one of the most effective and listing which leaders of the senate. that the center has ever had on may 6, 1954, just before the , expressed himself well on the subject. and i quote. clearl insist upon explanations of the policies in which we are asked to cooperate. we will insist that we and the american people be treated as adults. that we have the facts without sugarcoating. general, we are pleased to have you. general gavin: may i say, first of all, it's a great privilege
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for me to appear in front of the system was committee. -- ok upon this appearance >> they are not working. the microphone is not very difficult. [inaudible] a very poor microphone, general, i apologize. mr. kennan: -- general gavin: may i say, once again, is a great privilege for me to appear in front of this distinguished committee. i look upon this as a public service. second, i appreciate the opportunity to appear in an open hearing. i feel strongly that these issues are of the utmost importance to our people, they should hear the differing views,
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and out of this discourse will come, hopefully, a coalesced and consolidated national will to get on with the work at hand. outset -- sir, at the in the background of my point of view that i have arrived at an expressed in the can medication harper's magazine, with two years of service with the philippine scouts in the late 1930's, and since that time, considerable interest in the affairs of southeast asia. at the time of the fall, the direction of chief of staff, i saigon, anda, talked to the generals there. about the problems going on through thailand. things, that time, i recommend the construction of a feelingfrom bangkok, that thailand was a very sensitive spot, and very likely might become very deeply
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involved part of the southeast asia. deeply involved in our own strategy and affairs. then, one of the most meaningful use. as i had was with mr. kennedy, not a month after going to the post in paris, he asked to return to talk about the pros of laos. it was confronted with a very difficult situation, i speak from memory now. ,e were supporting a rightist and the question confronting president kennedy was, to what extent should we become involved in land warfare in laos. i don't know. but i would suspect that if he had sought the advice of the pentagon, we no doubt would have committed forces and more divisions. but mr. kennedy, this made little sense. the more we talked about it, the more i agreed with him. a landlocked country, remote
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from the immediate application of superpower and somewhat less of their power, it seemed to us. yesterday asked me, therefore, to go to paris upon my return and enter into a discussion to see if could not convince them we were interested in a free, neutral, independent laos. in this, and undertook to do. admittedly, with some misgivings of the outset, because he had a reputation for being very close to the communists, and i was not at all sure how negotiations would come out. conductedan ably negotiations at geneva, in parallel with my own. meetings,or eight very fruitful and fascinating meetings, we did arrive indeed at a treaty that hopefully guaranteed the freedom, neutrality, and independence of laos. now, aware then, as i am
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that what our president sought to achieve was a political settlement to what appeared to be a very serious, potentially serious military problem. he was absolutely right. and we did arrive at that solution. toce then, i've continued devote a great deal of my time to matters of global strategy and commitments. last summer, i was asked by the new york times to do an article on the meaning of the atomic bomb, 20 years later. this is for the early august edition, the russian edition. i'd give it a great deal of attention to the bombing in 1940's. and even then came as a conclusion that urban bombing lacked credibility for number of reasons, perhaps not worth going into here. i wrote an article, but was denied publication at that time. i felt that the problems of the bomb were quite different than
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simply escalating world war ii experience into more and more and more applied power. as the summer came to an end, my thinking on this matter got into the real meaning of the changes in global strategy that, in my opinion, had taken place in the last 20 years. i did an article on this, and in the midst of this, i was exchanging correspondence with mr. fisher, talking about sky cavalry, which is a postulation advanced in early 1950's, considered far too radical for acceptance at the time. now, as valid and accepted. time, late in the summer and early fall, decided our totalhe view of spectrum of global commitments and the changing nation of global strategy, we had better look hard at rv moneys -- our commitments, which
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had become alarmingly out of balance. i might say that all i said in that letter was let's look at a, where we are today, what our commitment are, what we can do. what the alternatives are, with these costs might be, and having done this, let's make up our minds we're going to do. my feelings were that we were being escalated at the will of an opponent rather than our own judgments. i base this is much on the statements of many officials will have been to that war-torn only toand who returned find they have had to change them successively thereafter, atch suggested to me that the beginning they didn't understand what the requirements were and couldn't estimate accurately what the needs might be to meet those requirements. i made passing to annoy and the futility of bombing and pointed out that this could cause more problems
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and create more problems than it would solve. i referred specifically to a quote urban bombing. i would like to make that clear. 1952? -- still in 1962? general gavin: no, this was late last year. the letter came out of my thinking about the strategy, which i would like to talk about. at the moment, i'm in passing touching upon the letter. i have a feeling, as the bombing went on beyond what were obviously military targets such as ammunition dumps, tank columns, or concentrations of trucks -- military targets, to power plants in such as that, they are slowly creeping towards urban bombing. i wanted to lay this to rest for once and all time. se, bombing the city, per for psychological reasons,
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achieves little in the way of military effect. in the courttoday of world opinion, could be extremely damaging with nothing to show for it. i want to make sure i handed that off as my own opinion. it wouldn't solve anything. mattery talk about the of global strategy, into which i would like to fit vietnam. two of the most significant things that happen in our time certainly have been the bomb and the space exploration, both of which have determined is military significance. the bomb is a variant just in case in point. the first question we asked ourselves was the meaning of the bomb. was the bomb the beginning of a new age in which the atom would solve our military problems as we have been unable to solve them in the past? or was it indeed the end? i suspected a first, it was the end.
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although this was a minority opinion, now i'm absolutely satisfied. as man has sought to impose his will on opponents in the beginning of recorded history, he has sought to use energy in every form that he could get it -- bludgeons, metallic penetrating instruments, metallic pellets fired by chemical charges to the explosion and fusion of the atom itself. he finally has succeeded in bringing down to the earth the very explosions that take place on the surface of the sun. fission. he has brought the energy of the cosmos of itself to earth. becausenger can use it, it could destroy a major segment of the human race. he is at the end of the search for energy with which to impose his will on fellow man. he is at the end, that search is terminated. now he must find more discreet means, more discriminating means. he must find greater mobility,
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rapid data transmission. he must keep this under control. he must know what's going on everywhere, as quick as he can find out, so as to keep under control local conflagrations and avoid a major catastrophe that might occur if thoughtlessly, nuclear weapons were used. so, and is purely a concept in which i do not ask for you to share agreement, but i am for the opportunity for expressing it -- if this is so, then for the first time in human history, something very unusual has happened in warfare. and i believe, indeed it has. strategy has to do with those measures you take short of war that make absolutely certain, if workers inadvertently, you are sure to win. it seems to me now, in the best analysis i have been able to make -- >> i didn't understand.
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general gavin: if war occurs inadvertently, if your strategy is right, you're going to win. i will give you examples of that. i may, but iif have given a great deal of thought and then some writing on the subject. i talked to the university of california in 1954 on a sabbatical, and i haven't come to these conclusions rather casually. they represent, for me at least, considerable effort and thought. thatems to me, therefore, our strategy today should be based upon first of all, a dynamic, viable, prospering economy. an economy that can export entrepreneurial skills, managerial techniques, dollars for acquisitions, ventures abroad, to help other people. we have developed a way of life which provides an abundance of
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means for people. and we should continue to export this, just as aggressively as we can, to help other people. i'm not talking about economic colonialism where the enlightened businessmen working abroad today is trying to help other people help themselves. not born equal, nor indeed, our nation's portable. and they need help to achieve a place for their people. they need help of many kinds. we been doing extremely well in this respect. while i'm talking in this context of strategy, it seems to me that, for example, if one of the great books on decisive battles, the 15 decisive battles from the beginning of history to -- were to bebeat rewritten today, it would include the means of mr. khrushchev, who sought to coexist with his own totalitarian system organized on
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the basis of planning, not the market of the man. who failed, because he simply couldn't get the grain grown. he didn't have fertilizer, and is economy couldn't produce. characteristically, as happens with a failing strategy, he sought the tactical gambit to recoup. he went to cuba integrated venture -- in a great adventure. --nks to our secretary and our president and secretary of offense -- of defense, he was defeated. it was the decisive setback in history, and our efforts to work closely with the soviet people should be rewarding. in fact, i believe that in the present state of the union reference to encouraging trade is a very good thing. we have done a very good deal, exporting professors, entertainers, and scientists, now ex businessmen and their techniques. i think we can go a long way together.
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it was a turning point. it was the means for mr. khrushchev. thatld say further strategy today is in the realm of science and technology. out of science and inadequate an adequategram -- research programs. ,n the court of world opinion world opinion itself, we have the area that will have a very great deal to do with what we may do. i would draw the parallel of the use of energy and power through the many, many centuries of human existence, when people were restrained by their fellow men, in what they could do, you things, to do many including city states restrained whether armed forces could do. this nation has shrunk. this world has shrunk to the we simplyy where
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can't do all of the things we would like to do. that one of our greatest captains of all time was general macarthur, and even he had to come to realize and learn the hard way that the use of a nuclear bomb, because we had them in our arsenal could not be permitted under his mandate from the united nations, it was simply an entire liberal thing. -- an intolerable thing. areas of on three strategy that i believe are of overriding importance. my concern, therefore, for vietnam first became aroused when i found is cutting back in our global commitments in the realm of economics. that thean to suspect escalation in southeast asia was beginning to hurt our strategic position. if this has significance now, it significanceendous
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in the long run. we begin to turn back on what we're doing in world affairs, through our economic endeavors, to support a tactical confrontation that appears to be escalating at the will of an enemy, we are in very dangerous territory, in my opinion. and for this reason, what we are doing their deserve scrutiny. there are several areas where confrontations occur tactically. i mentioned cuba. europe is one today. in my opinion, our commitments in europe are far in excess of our needs, not only true commitments, but logistical support to back up those troops. asia, the korean commitment is what we must maintain. and we are maintaining it. support of taiwan, the offshore islands, likewise. southeast asia is a very
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volatile, dynamic area of operations. vietnam was not alone. thailand, and look upon as the very, very dangerous area. and one that we should regard most seriously at this time. therefore, in looking at it, i raise some questions. all, what do we have today, and what can they do? today, we have sufficient forces in south vietnam double areas along the coast where cna a pair -- sea and airpower can be employed. i then suggest we might look at the alternatives. , are welistically really trying to seal off vietnam entirely? extend the 17th parallel all across?
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this has been considered. theiruld put accord on and considerable cost. it would still be open and the end. but it's possible. one could extend the security down the cambodian border. but to me, these appear to be incredibly costly in manpower and national wealth. i use the word wealth to include material resources. so i finally came to the conclusion -- i think this is very important. whatu're charged about i've said, i quote, we must do the best we can with the forces we have deployed in vietnam now. nothing more than that. i did not say withdraw or attack or do anything else. we must do the best we have with what we have in hand. keep in mind the true meaning of global strategy and world affairs today.
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economic science, technology and world opinion will serve strategic interests well if we handle our resources wisely. on the other hand, tactical mistakes could be disastrously costly. since the advent of the space age there has been a revolution in the nature of global conflict. the confrontation in vietnam is our first test in the understanding of such change or our lack of it will stop the measures we now take must stem from sagacity, thoughtfulness, restraint and an awareness in the changing strategy in this rapidly shrinking world. mr. chairman, perhaps at this point i might say nothing further and i would be very pleased to have an opportunity to answer any questions that may be addressed. >> thank you very much, general. i think that your review of the overall strategy is very useful
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and speaking for myself not being a military man and has great appeal. but i would not wish to pass judgment on it further than that . i believe general that you had something to do with the study of indochina. about 1954 when you are working with the general. >> yes sir, i was the chief of plans developed in the beginning of early 54 and i stayed in that position for several years. >> did you participate in the study that general ridgway ordered relative to the feasibility of, at that time entering in to indochina? >> yes mr. chairman, we consider the advisability of entering the hanoi delta and as i recall, we talked about the need and many engineer battalions.
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we anticipated environmental losses would be very great and there was some talk about the significance of hanoi island if we would go into the delta. we give it quite thorough consideration. >> in general ridgway's book on page 276 he says -- i would read it to see if you would comment on it. this is general ridgway's statement, i felt it was essential that all who had any influence in making the decision on this grave matter should be aware of all the factors involved. a lot of these facts i sent out to indochina, a team of experts in every field. engineers, communication specialists medical officers and experience combat leaders who knew how to evaluate in terms of battle tactics. the area that they found was practically devoid of those
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facilities which modern forces such as ours find essential to the waging of war. telecommunications, highways and railways all the things that make possible the operation of a modern combat force on land were almost nonexistent. the facilities and airfields were totally inadequate and to provide facilities we would need would require tremendous engineering and logistic effort. on page 277 he writes, we could have fought in indochina and we could have one if we had been willing to pay the tremendous cost and men and money that such intervention would have required, a cost in my opinion that would've eventually been as great as or greater than that we had in korea. in korea we learned that air and naval power alone would not win a war and inadequate ground forces cannot win when either. -- win one either.
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it was incredible to me that we had lost this bitter lesson so soon, that we were on the verge of making that same, tragic error. that error was not repeated. as soon as the full report was in i lost no time in having it passed on up to full chain of command. it reached president eisenhower. to him it was clear. the idea of intervening was abandoned and it is my belief that the analysis which the army made played a considerable and perhaps decisive part in persuading our government not to embark on that tragic adventure. >> general, as far as you know, are the conditions in indochina different today than they were at that time? >> there is one basic difference sir. he was talking about going into the delta and write to the chinese frontier which certainly
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meant the immediate intervention of chinese opposition. other than that i would say conditions are not essentially different although this was an important point, too. i should say that in the way of background there is more than a cold piece of paper in this type of planning. we spent a lot of time worrying about it certainly i did. hits considerable combat experience of a new that i would be responsible for the planning, conduct of operations and i divulged a great deal of talk about it with colleagues who had considerable experience in southeast asia and china. we finally decided that what we were talking about doing was going to war with china under the conditions that were appallingly disadvantageous. murtagh not going to war with her thousands of miles from the heart of her were making -- of our warmaking capacity and it frankly made little sense to the men that had to do the fighting.
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i was more than pleased to see general ridgway take the initiative and it took moral courage to do it and say let's take a look at this. >> do you think the conditions in south vietnam, the conditions mentioned in this statement are more favorable to conduct of the war the north vietnam? is the terrain more favorable, are the conditions more favorable is the terrain easier to maneuver? >> there is one factor. >> the communication lines would come from china and supply would be much longer so there was a bit of an advantage but this is of almost minimal import. environmental conditions are no doubt just as costly and south vietnam as it would've been a north vietnam.
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>> your conclusion was it might probably lead to a confrontation with china and i would take it that you felt and general ridgway felt that this was not a wise thing to undertake. do you see any reason it would be wiser today? >> i don't but i would say the initiative is that of the chinese. >> what do you mean by that? >> i think the confrontation will occur when and where they choose to make it occur. for this reason -- >> are you saying the initiative was with the chinese? >> could you repeat the question ? >> he did say the initiative is now with the chinese. next i feel that in vietnam today yes. that's what i said a moment ago and this makes me uneasy.
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the escalation is not occurring out of our will as much as it is in response to the commitment of an opponent with just a quick supported by the chinese. there may be variations of new wants to this but i feel that the confrontation with the chinese israel and a compelling fact of life today. for this reason i'm uneasy about and over response in vietnam. we could get ourselves so deeply involved as to lack the capability that we should have. in korea if it were reopened, in thailand if it became very serious and then fitting us into the spectrum i am concerned because international strategic position is being eroded badly. so the choice is not whether or not we will be in vietnam but to use good judgment and discretion in what we do there. that is what i maintain that we should do.
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>> it is a little bit subtle about the initiative being in the hands of the chinese. if our escalation is confined or if it doesn't take place in north vietnam it certainly would minimize the risk of chinese entry. the chinese are not now presley engaged in this war directly? >> not directly except through additional support. i would be happy if the initiative were entirely ours and we could do just as we pleased and things are cut back as we see fit. >> why can't we? >> i think we have try to and has successfully increased our commitment for reasons that seem to be out of our control. >> what are the reasons that make it beyond our control? >> our secretary of defense should be quite ready to answer a question of that sort. we first sent trainees and then we felt we had to do the same with combat advisors.
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we had to send troops to protect our aces? why did we have to do all of this? what was the irresistible force? ask it was the judgment of our secretary of defense this had to be done and i'm not questioning why he exercised that judgment i'm just technology it is an historical fact that it has been done. >> the fact it has been done does not necessarily mean it we had no choice. it seems to me and several instances there was the freedom of choice. this was rather a strong country anything we could have some control over whether we proceed or not proceed in this area. >> i would say so? >> of this is where it loses me that we thought we had to do this. there is an inevitability about it from your statement that i cannot see. >> perhaps we did not have to, we could have stopped at any point along the way.
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>> if i understand general ridgway's statement he said we could do this and we could win but the cost was out of proportion to what we could gain. >> that's true. then in 54 would you agree with it now. >> sure. >> i don't see any great change in the circumstances between 1954 and the present that would warrant a different conclusion from the study that you made. >> as i pointed out in the theater to the men doing the fighting it's of little difference there but is not great significance as far as our commitment goes. >> this question of commitment is another question that perhaps i should not ask you. you did not make any commitment, did you? >> no i didn't. >> i have many other questions. we are very good attendance this
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morning and i shall reserve mind for later on. >> general gavin, i share with other members of this committee great admiration that we have for you and your work and the respect for your views and any questions i pertaining to it are not to be taken as critical. but trying to get to the basic facts. the reasoning in this case. i've read the article published in harper's. i have also read the newspaper stories reporting on a speech that you made in new york?
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or was it a speech? anyway, you said there had been a misconstruction of your views that you did not advocate stopping the bombing. is that right? >> that's right. >> you did advocate holding out for a time. >> i noticed in the article though you used the term desist. on the other hand, if we should maintain enclaves on the coast, desist our attacks in north vietnam and seek to find a solution through the united nations, was that to be taken as meaning that you simply meant to pause in the bombing until you had a chance to take it to the united nations? >> i have the letter to the editor december 3. that's a long time ago and when written it seems barred and remote indeed from the scenario. at that time it seems to me that
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first of all, what is the head off any idea that urban bombing was the answer to our problem. that's why i made specific reference to hunt white and peaking. i didn't say stop word cease or give it up. i said slow down and take a look at the situation. >> my thinking is that desist means to stop. but it may not mean permanently. is that your meaning? >> yes. i would be happy to talk about it and i feel this way about it. if the gentleman has a mission to carry out i see no reason for restricting his bombing of military targets whatsoever. combat forces and combat weapons that come into his area he our young men deserve that support. i began to be very uneasy in late november when we were
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bombing the power plants and i could see us beginning to bomb cities where women and children and noncombatants might lose their lives in great numbers and we begin slowly to creep into urban bombing, which is why i said let's desist now and take a look at this whole situation. what our commitment is, perhaps we can find an opponent -- an approach. >> this is what i meant by that. >> unlike to have that exultation. i think that staple of misunderstanding in the way it is worded. >> that's the problem with writing something tightly that is not too long for people to read. >> i'm glad to hear your answer about bombing military objectives and i was going to answer that question. would you include -- in that? >> i do not know enough about it. i would have to know more about
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the conditions of the harbor. i presume it could be mined or otherwise blockaded. >> it could just be done away with since it is a major port of entry. >> that would be true of any military objective? >> i would say so. >> but avoid civilian centers. >> that's right. >> i think that is a very clear statement and a very good statement. you do say that in the meantime, we must do the best we can with the forces we have deployed in vietnam, keeping in mind the true meaning of strategy and global affairs. what you are advocating maintain the force at its present level? >> that is exactly what i said sir. >> may i elaborate on this? i was startled to find that for
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fiscal year 67 we are going to $10.5 billion in vietnam. this is as a citizen who has devoted a lifetime to our global position and the nature of global conflict. if vietnam at this point is worth disinvestment of our national resources, are we not becoming too mesmerized with this? are we not losing sight of the total global picture? i recommend that we make do with what we have. i was happy to talk to mr. mcnamara about this. could we do better with what we have? i don't know. we have many commitments in many areas along the coast and in land. it might be possible, in a purely
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diplomatic sense to redeploy resources. it would be certainly unwise to maintain status quote and just sit there and do nothing. to do the best with what we have. >> in the macarthur hearings, general bradley one-time used an expression in reference to a land war which he said would be the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. you hold somewhat to that view? >> i can only speak for myself but i think he was referring to the war in manchuria. unfortunately we are involved in southeast asia now and our young men are doing a splendid job. i do not think the armed forces have done a better job right at the outset and we must given the best support that we can. i could not quite agree with
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that as john bradley once expressed. >> you do point out in your article that if we are going to have a war with red china it ought to be in the men sharia -- in the manchuria area? >> to be perfectly honest, i would say if china brings on herself a global war, the place to fight her is not southeast asia,but the place where you can take the real heart of her warmaking capacity and this is the manchurian area. >> there is one statement in your article that seems to me to be of considerable importance and concern where you say if the chinese communists continue on
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their present course of aggression and continue to develop more devastating weapons, the time may, when china will bring upon herself a nuclear war. do you believe that? >> of course i do. >> do you think that is likely? >> i don't know. i know nuclear weapons well. in 1947i attended our nuclear weapons school and went to operation greenhouse in the pacific where the first h-bomb trigger was fired as well as the 50 kt weapon. one gains tremendous respect for these weapons once you know the real capabilities and i think the soviets understand this. i would hope that the chinese would begin to understand it. for example they have said and i have here the source of the quote. it wasn't from mr. mao or one of his staff, what does it matter if they lose a couple hundred billion people there are still 300 million more.
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this is very primitive thinking that is quite unreal. his problem would be catastrophic beyond belief. i hope he will learn this in time. in the meantime, judging by what they say and how they behave, they are quite aggressive and -- in what they are doing. this may relate to their position to united nations. there is no doubt that they are very aggressive right now. >> i saw a tv program a couple of nights ago telling about the showing how the situation was handled. it took the british 12 years to clean that up. >> they did a good job of it and i touched upon it here and there in my service and we talked about how well they did. they had a unique position with the peninsula really cutting it
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off and then they could control the environment. we have an entirely different problem in southeast asia. >> if i remember correctly, secretary rusk made a statement -- or it may not have been him -- that we were going after, we the not going to wait for viet cong to come to us, we were going after them and had to pull them out one at a time. that was what they did, isn't it? >> i don't know. i really don't know. i think you have an entirely different thing in vietnam than malaysia. >> i notice you quoted -- here in an article in the evening star. you said -- i do not see it now, but you said -- oh, yes. general gavin, a former
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ambassador to france said he now wishes he had not written the letter. >> no. i was asked in the context of the problems i had in the last two weeks how i felt about it and i must say it is unbearable. i don't know when in my life i have had such techniques used against me, where i am charged with having said things i did not say and then the charge having been made i'm attacked for having sent them. i had been accused of receiving, -- retreating, wanting to withdraw, being a turtle and wanting to hold and i have said none of these things are recommended none of these things but worst than this is being charged with these views and -- i almost look upon it more seriously than vietnam itself. if this is the state of our government, where in the world are we going? >> i understand everything about
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you. [laughter] >> you still stand on the letter? >> absolutely. every idea i believe in and i stand behind every word and it. -- every word in it. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general gavin, with your experience and service to your country in various capacities i'm sure that we welcome your views, the opportunity of discussing them with you and perhaps especially because of the confusion that has risen about the interpretation of what you really mean and what you really said. time is limited and we have a
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vote on the floor at 11:00 so i will try to not take up all my time. do i understand that you advocate that we hold what we have? that is a broad statement. but that if we hold what we have that we not attempt to extend or expand our physical control of the areas of vietnam except by peaceful means? >> there is a not too subtle point involved in the use of language here. when i wrote that we were apparently escalating at a rather steady rate. men.ound 200,000 some writers were saying we may need to double this to 500,000. they were even talking about a
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million men my some columnists. i felt at the time had come to take a reappraisal of where we were feeling that we were being initiative -- initiated not of our own will and judgment but of the initiative of an opponent and i did say let's take a look at what we now have there what we can do with what we have and see if we cannot find another solution to this problem because the alternative is quite clear. we can go to three quarters of a million men. if we do this we must understand that these are the implications. so i did say let's take a look at where we are today and what we can do with what we have and see if we cannot find a solution. >> regardless of your own personal desires -- what do you conceived to be the objective of our country and what ever allies
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we may have and the activities in south vietnam today? how do you understand it? >> no one has told me this. it is my impression we are seeking to establish a government chosen by the people of south vietnam that can operate freely without interference by the vietcong. that's all. we have no desire to stay there. we want them to have a good government. >> under the history of the last two to three years, do you believe that would have the possibility of being accomplished by holding what we have now and not attempting to escalate in any way? >> i'm really not sure. i was led to believe a year or two ago that this was quite possible. i don't know.
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i decide i better worry a little bit more about this now. there is much talk now if we cannot do it with what we have, where are we going? i would like to know what the cost is. it could be a sound military investment. >> do you consider this to be primarily a military operation or is it basically apolitical -- or is it basically a political operation? >> certainly its character has become military almost entirely now. when we were providing advisors, it was really a political problem. the commitment of military forces on both sides has made it overwhelmingly a military problem.
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i guess this relates to what i said about laos. if we could solve political conditions in vietnam, the military problem would disappear. it may be far too late for that now. >> at the present time, it seems to indicate that the viet cong controls more than 50% of the land in south vietnam. i don't know what the percentage is, we get various estimates. let's say two-thirds. if we followed the policy -- of using your word, the system in on our military activities, standing fast or holding, what would keep the viet cong from running riot over the rest of south vietnam? general gavin: i said desisting
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an application the bombing. the use -- they can be carried out. the use of the land forces should be carried out. >> that would revert under the circumstances to jungle fighting, would it not? general gavin: that is what it is today. >> i'm interested in your comments upon the bombing military objectives, military targets. it is my understanding that one of the ultimate actions of a war on either side if they cannot win quick victory in the field is to attack the enemy's basis of strength. his production facilities. the things that feed the war machine. certainly the media i would think would include power plants, canals, railroads, and
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all manner of things. factories that produce for his armies. i don't understand why power plants should be excluded. general gavin: i look upon this is one of the great illusions of all time. that with air power you can win this way. i think a result of the survey will show that is bombing tonnage went up, german production went up until he overran facilities. you cannot win by bombing. >> that's been an undisputed military theory for a long time, that you can take ground by certain means but you cannot hold it without men on the ground. before the airplane came with its great prominence, you cannot
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hold it unless you had men on the ground that you had temporarily captured with artillery fire. general gavin: the use of the airplane in vietnam today is sensational and its effectiveness. the big hercules, the helicopter, the role of the air force. it's absolutely indispensable. but this is not bombing. that's another matter. >> i don't like to get into professional arguments. i presume you have read the report of general maxwell taylor's speech in new york somewhere around the first of this month. general gavin: yes, i have , sir.
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>> and i will just read this extra that exerpt. he is quoted as saying, he knew of no officer who had "current" responsibilities who share the enclave theory. they go on and refer to your -- i'm assuming that's referring to your article in "harpers magazine." the comments in the speech that if we don't succeed in south vietnam, the efficacy of a war
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of liberation will be established and proved. and we can expect more attempts at wars of liberation around the world in various places in the world in various places in the succeeded in south vietnam. -- if this succeeded in south vietnam. this is allegedly a direct quote from the speech. general taylor says, "this country cannot escape its destiny as the champion of the free world. there is no running away from it. the impulse to withdraw our troops and safe enclaves in south vietnam has much in common with the yearning for safety beyond defenses at our coastlines and is equally illusory." i assume you are familiar with the sixth each. -- with this speech general gavin: i have a copy in
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front of me. >> time is up. finish the question. >> it seems to me regardless of how power -- our plan or what got us into this situation in south vietnam, it seems to me our presence there has the most formidable part of the free world may go far beyond the question of winning the battles. it's an ideological struggle we are facing at that point. would you agree there is an ideological factor here? general gavin: no question about it. >> if we don't win that battle, how do -- what do you think will happen to american prestige in africa, southeast asia, the philippines, formosa and japan?
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general gavin: is that the question? >> what do you think about the respect? general gavin: would you include cuba in that? >> it looks to me like cuba has been well-suited to the communists already. general gavin: cuba is 90 miles from our sure. -- shore. >> we are not in there now. i'm talking about the old communist philosophy from moscow that the way to paris is by way of peking. and the encirclement policy of capturing first south asia, moving through the south asia, moving to africa and portions of it and the mediterranean and slip -- and so on. under that long-range theory. general gavin: i assume you base your question on statements made by general taylor.
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senator, these i find deeply disturbing. i am not sure if you read what i wrote that he had things to say. he attributes to me a holding strategy and a sensation of bombing. and withdrawal of united states ground forces which would lead to a crushing defeat, a capitulation. a retreat. the abandonment of many people. he referred to the retreat that would be disastrous. and a great defeat. i don't understand this. this to me is a technique i find so devastating. then you are asked why do you feel like this -- then you ask why do i feel like this? i don't think you read what i wrote. i don't understand why he would say things like this. >> i think that's one of the purposes here, to clarify the situation. there is a great deal of confusion. >> my time is up.
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general gavin: on the matters of wars of liberation, these are powers. i worry that since the initiative may be that of the chinese let's say, we feel we must rise to each one with the national resources with all we have. and defeat that then and there. i have no doubt in the long run that our system will triumph, vis-a-vis that of the chinese communist. no doubt about that. what i want is to see my nation act with strength, wisely show restraint. i think we are doing quite well in vietnam. i worry about going further. whether or not we win a so-called war of liberation with the chinese is not worry me have as much as all the other things that could happen to us. i think we are doing quite well in total confrontation. >> thank you.
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>> we are informed there will be a vote at 11:15. i think we can run to one more turn at 11:10. we will reconvene at 11:40 in run to 12:55 a come back into: p.m. that's the best i can give you. >> senator? senator morrison? >> i want to say that not only do i think that this committee owes you a great debt for the distinguished public service you rendered so many times in the past for will i be the greatest serves you rendered yet, and that is your testimony this morning. i think you have demonstrated what it means in a democracy to inform the people through public sanction. i hope there will be those in the administration that will learn the lesson from this session this morning.
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there is not a single person on this committee that has any desire or intention of asking anyone to be the secretary of defense of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or anyone else questions involved in security of this republic. having sat in these hearings for many years they know that , particular question i want to answer -- we've been talking basic policies with you this morning. the american people are entitled to have been discussed in public by anyone coming before us, including the administration witnesses. i want to thank you for this great service you rendered the country. my first question will deal with a concern you expressed throughout your testimony at various times this morning. it seems to me you are concerned
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about where we may end up in this war in southeast asia. vis-a-vis china. we have got to face that general question of policy. we cannot stick our heads in the sand and say there is no war -- no danger of war with china. i hope they will not involve themselves in a nuclear war but who knows. suppose they do? suppose they decide to move on the ground? suppose we get in a war with them and we do the bombing and we knock out their cities and their nuclear installations and their industrial complex, but they still carry on on the ground? what is your estimate of how many american troops we want to send over in the early stages of that war? general gavin: that is quite a complex question. before i respond to it, much
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would depend not on the theater and depend upon where they would have to go. i sometimes wonder what the theater slices for vietnam because it takes four to five times and many people behind the slice to keep them there. if the major confrontation were to occur in northern china and the manchurian area, operating out of korea we could probably do quite well with double the forces we have in korea -- had in korea. i would like to be specific with the question, doesn't lend itself to pacific answers? -- specific answers? >> this public hearing lets the question be raised. i response to whether or not you can do it with a number of men we now have in southeast asia, or double that or triple that.
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is it not true judging from what other leaders of said in the past that it would take hundreds of thousands of men to fight red china on the ground? whether you do it in manchuria or move up from south korea to the border of china? general gavin: if they get -- if it became a chinese volunteers, followed by some semblance of regular forces, i would say our commitment would escalate to double and double again the number of men we haven't southeast asia to save themselves. and save their own resources and bases. >> when we got done forcing them to their knees and i'm satisfied we could at terrible cost but we could, the final surrender -- does that and our occupation of china? >> i have a feeling of this point if you're that far down the road in total conflict you
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would involve the ussr and some role or another. whether they seek to move it once into the vacuum into china, i suspect they would, and there would be real problems and further confrontations in the successive following theater. >> i expect well with your brilliant mind it was way ahead of me come to this question in a moment. i will carry a bit longer on my last question. assuming russia does come in and -- it doesn't come in and it's the united states versus china, after we for searchers surrender, there will still be a china devastated as it is. would it be possible for us to automatically withdraw our troops and go home or will be have -- or would we have a policing job to do for a long time thereafter? general gavin: there is no doubt there would be hundreds of millions of chinese left he would be in dire straits.
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many of them very ill from the effects of the use of nuclear weapons. the whole base of food production and food availability, the economy, the agriculture would be laid flat. i assume we would have some responsibility for trying to get the situation straightened out. it would be an appalling problems deal with. >> would that not also be an appalling drain of the economic resources and the manpower of our country? general gavin: no question about it. >> i will take the possibility of red russia getting involved. i'm surprised the number of people who seem to think russia would not come in. we have a duty to giving some thoughts of the problem of if she does come in, what our position would be then. if russia should come in on the basis of the fact that she has a
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security pact with china or any other reason, do you think russia would fight us in china? or which he fight us in new york city and chicago and washington and moscow and stalingrad? general gavin: russia will always fight with its at her advantage to do so. i would think if she saw clearly an opportunity to achieve greater control and greater amount of territory, she would go ahead and see current in its were ever it would take her. into northern china or wherever it would be. this would involve a confrontation with us, i don't know. she has great respect for our nuclear weapons. >> we can't dismiss it as impossible to happen? general gavin: it's a contingency we should be aware of in the back of our minds.
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>> chairman, one more question. you responded about what we might do if we escalated the war with handling -- hanoi. we might mind the harbor or blockad -- blockade it. have you given any thought to the position of noncombatant countries with respect to blockading the harbor? could you name for us the neutral or noncombatant nations that would lower those flags of that blockade, including the union jack? general gavin: there would be serious trouble of that arrived. >> do you know of any time in the history of the british empire that the union jack is ever been lowered to a blockade that the british empire was not a party to?
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general gavin: i know of none. this matter has come up in the past when i was in the pentagon and we worried about dealing with some of the problems of china. this is a very difficult thing to do. it would probably be impossible to enforce. >> do you think the russian flag would be lowered to that blockade? general gavin: i don't know. i doubt it. >> if you sank the first russian ship when it wasn't lowered to that blockade? general gavin: i suppose it would be time to bomb. >> i much prefer valentines. >> we will be back, general. [indistinct chatter] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> american history tv on c-span three features programs that tell the american story. this we can we continue our special syriza 1956 vietnam hearings 50 years later. we will hear special consultant to president johnson, general maxwell taylor's opening statement followed -- followed by committee member questions. >> our position is equally clear and easily defined. of aprilltimore speech 7, 1955, president johnson did so in the following terms -- our objective is the independence of south vietnam and its freedom from attack area we want nothing for ourselves.
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only that the people of south vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way. this has been our basic objective since 1954. it has been pursued a three successive administrations and remains our basic objective today. >> next saturday, former secretary of state dean rest defends the vietnam policy. for the complete schedule, go to all weekend, american history tv is featuring greenville, south carolina, once known as the textile capital of the world. the city's tour staff recently visited many sites showcasing their history. learn more about greenville all weekend here on american history tv. good evening, my fellow citizens. this government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the soviet


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